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Amtrak names Harris as president

By | June 23, 2022

Williams promoted to executive vice president, service delivery and operations

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Man standing in passenger car
Roger Harris, Amtrak’s new president. (Bob Johnston)

WASHINGTON — Amtrak has once again split the positions of chief executive officer and president, with CEO Stephen Gardner announcing the appointment of Roger Harris as president and the promotion of Gerhard (Gery) Williams to executive vice president, service delivery and operations.

Gardner had become president and CEO in January following the announced retirement of Bill Flynn after 21 months as CEO [see “Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn to retire,” Trains News Wire, Dec. 15, 2021].

The appointments are effective July 5.

“Amtrak has entered an exciting new era of growth and development, with more opportunities than ever before,” Gardner said in a press release, adding that the new appointments by the Amtrak board “will help the company accelerate our progress in recovering, growing and transforming the business.”

Harris has served as chief commercial officer since April 2019. As president, he will report to Gardner and lead coordination of operations, marketing, customer service, network planning, and other functions.

Williams will report to Harris, as will Dennis Newman, executive vice president, strategy and planning, and a new chief commercial officer, when one is hired.

Williams succeeds Scot Naparstek, who is retiring after 10 years with Amtrak, including five in his current role, and oversaw safety improvements such as the company’s implementation of positive train control. Williams has served as senior vice president, service delivery and operations, since January. He joined Amtrak in 2017 as vice president and chief engineer, responsible for maintenance and construction of infrastructure assets including the Northeast Corridor.

The president and CEO positions had been held by the same individual until November 2020, when Flynn named Gardner as president [see “Amtrak names Stephen Gardner as president,” News Wire, Nov. 30, 2020]. Originally, president was Amtrak’s highest-ranking position; it was combined with the CEO title during the 2008-2016 tenure of Joseph Boardman.

13 thoughts on “Amtrak names Harris as president

  1. Shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. No visible operating experience, and still the same lame-brained board at the top.

  2. From the Leadership section of Amtrak’s website:

    Before joining Amtrak, Roger served as Senior Vice President of Revenue, Distribution & Alliances for Aeroméxico, which is Mexico’s flag carrier and largest airline with $3 billion in annual revenue. While at Aeroméxico, he helped to transform the commercial organization and prepare the company for deregulation and Open Skies between the U.S. and Mexico. Prior to Aeroméxico, Roger held leadership roles in commercial and strategic functions at Delta Air Lines, Sun Country Airlines, GMAC Financial Services, Northwest Airlines and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

    Yeah, real qualified to lead a national passenger rail company. UGH!

    1. I’ll reluctantly give the self-proclaimed “Amtrak Joe” a pass on paying attention to Gardner’s machinations. He really does have lots on his plate, like caring so much about growing Amtrak ridership that he now proposes a gas tax “holiday”. But what’s Buttigieg’s excuse and FRA administrator Amit Bose’s excuses? I know. They are utterly clueless. So when Sen. Schumer leaned on the Biden administration, as Mr. M. E. Singer suggested, in commentary to the Newswire’s article citing Biden’s nominees for a new Board, retaining the NEC-fixated Anothony Coscia as Board Chair, no one raised an eyebrow. SMH.

  3. Too bad they don’t exhibit the same enthusiasm to fill on board crew jobs as they do executive jobs.

  4. Sorry to bore the faithful, but decades ago I suggested having the Santa Fe, who to the end and beyond, ran a service we now can only dream of…run Amtrak.

    1. CURTIS — Of course we know your post is a bit tongue-in-cheek, the average age of a Santa Fe passenger train crew or passenger train manager in 1971 was close to retirement age, wouldn’t have gotten us much past 1975 or so.

      I rode the awesome “Santa Fe” trains in the very early Amtrak years. One hundred percent Santa Fe equipment (cars and locos), crews (operating and on-board service), commissary, station agents, etc. The only difference was changing the Chicago terminal from Dearborn Street Station to Union Station, which I’m confident was an improvement.

      What’s come out in the years since was that Santa Fe was an insular organization that was very proud of itself but didn’t play well with others. Put a Union Pacific baggage car on Amtrak 3/4, Santa Fe management would have broken down in tears. So no, John Shedd Reed’s people couldn’t have run any railroad except their own.

      1. Charles – I think your remarks apply to unique corporate cultures in any of the big passenger carriers pre-mergers and pre-Amtrak. As a PRR guy, believe me I know what “our way” means.

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